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Henri Dikongué

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Henri Dikongue (pronounced "On-ree Dee-kong-ay") has been one of the spearheads in the revival of the acoustic sounds of Cameroon. In contrast to the African country's high-spirited, heavily electronic dance styles of zouk and makossa, Dikongue has taken a more introspective and melodic direction with his music. While his debut 1995 album, Wa (You), was marked by outspoken commentary about the military regime, racism and difficulties of post-colonial life in Cameroon, Dikongue took a more reflective approach with his second album, C'est La Vie, which was released in 1998. Dedicated to the late Nigerian vocalist Fela Kuti and late American actor Robert Mitchum, the album reached the top slot on music charts in Europe. Although Cameroonean rhythms remain the foundation of Dikongue's music, his songs reflect influences as diverse as reggae, samba, salsa, soul music and jazz. Dikongue cites late Cameroonean composer Eboa Lotin, vibrato-heavy vocalist/poet Pierre Akendengue and Armenian-born French singer-composer Charles Aznavour as influences. Born to a upper middle class family in the capital city of Yaounde, Dikongue spent several years in South Africa, singing in an Anglican church choir. Moving to Paris in 1989 with plans to attend law school, Dikongue decided instead to enroll in a music school. The decision displeased his parents, who withdrew their financial support. Dikongue remained in Paris, supporting himself as a dishwasher and mover while studying music and composition. Although Dikongue sings in the Dovuala language, he writes his songs in French and works with a translator. His cousin, Cathy Renoir, has played an important role in his sound, singing harmonies on 1995's Wa, 1998's C'est la Vie, and 2000's Mot'a Babe. ~ Craig Harris

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Years Active:

'90s, '00s